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This fine lamp has a rich, glossy, dark chocolate patina and ample wear associated with significant age and ritual use. The handle part of the lamp is inscribed with a row of Malayalam script, the main script used in India’s Kerala state. Wear and use has rendered the inscription very faint however.
The lamp comprises a flared, circular foot, a deep oil reservoir, a handle section with a bud-like finial at the rear, a shallow Yoni-shaped oil well or burner at the front, and a spoon attached to the lamp by a brass chain. The spoon is to ladle oil from the reservoir to the lamp well at the front.
The finial of the spoon matches that on the back of the lamp: it is clear that the spoon is no replacement.
On the underside, a struts connects the handle to body of the reservoir. A similar strut connecting the reservoir with the lamp well is now missing. This is an old loss however, and not really apparent.
The lamp was used in conjunction with Hindu prayer (puja) rituals.
A very similar lamp is illustrated in Rawson (1971, p. 15). Another is illustrated in Anderson (2006, p. 35).
Overall, this is a simple and beautiful lamp with an exceptional patina.
Anderson, S., Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006.
Kelkar, D.G., Lamps of India, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 1961.
Rawson, P., Tantra, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1971.